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Showing My Underwear

It’s about to get real up in this piece. Why? I’m going to show you my underwear. Not my real underwear, underwear is the term I use for things you don’t want to show people but sometimes the wind blows up your skirt and you’re exposed. In this case, it has come to my attention that because of my carefully considered FB posts – and they are – everyone’s posts are, I have given the impression that my life is an amazing wonderland of togetherness. Well, yeah. That’s what I want you to see. Here’s a little truth bomb – I have like 500 friends on FB and 1k on Twitter- maybe 25 outside of family are invited into my real life. That’s how I want it, that’s how it’s going to stay. That said, have I miraculously cracked the code of how to be a working, stay-at-home mother and student and live a glamorous, stress-free life? No. No one does. So, I’m going to show you my underwear.

First, a little background. I am currently in my 2nd year of an MFA program. This semester, in addition to creative work, I’m writing a 20 page research paper. I work 30 hours per week as a research associate for a STEM non-profit, and I am married and I have two children, ages 4 and 12. Nearly every day people ask me how I do it, and I say, “I dunno, I just do”. But that’s a lie. I do know how I do it, and I will tell you, but you aren’t going to like it. There is no magic spell. What I’ve done is brutally stripped everything from my life that doesn’t fall within a few categories that I’ve determined are essential to my health, happiness, and growth.

Prioritize

These are the things that my life revolves around: Family, Work, School. That’s it. That is the order of importance. When I graduate, writing is going into the school slot. When (not if – take note of that) I start getting overwhelmed, I look at my life, and if something does not fit into one of those three categories – it’s out.

Things that are NOT priorities for me:

TV. I watch maybe 5 hours a week, MAYBE and that’s a high estimate.
Cooking dinner. This one makes me a little sad. I’m a really good cook. Luckily, so is my husband.
Cleaning. My house is a disaster. I clean like once a week. I have learned to let it go. We have clean clothes. We have clean dishes. Good enough.
Hanging out with Friends. Sorry.

My kitchen. It always looks like this. But, the fridge has healthy food in it, so I don’t care about the rest.

This is my office. It’s also my closet. It’s a pit, but I love it.

Things that ARE priorities for me:
Reading. I read 2 hours a day. Minimum. For school and pleasure.
Quality time with my kids
Having healthy food that requires no prep.
Physical Activity every day
Meditation & Yoga

My kids at the beach. I studied while we were there. This is an example of something you’d see on my Instagram or FB.

My priorities are not going to be your priorities. You need to figure out yours. I don’t care about TV, but if I cut out daily reading I’d be miserable. Maybe that’s not the case for you. Maybe you love TV. The key is figuring out what makes you happiest and cutting out the rest.

Plan:
My life is scheduled out, and I write down everything I need to do. I have 2 google calendars, an actual physical planner, and a white board for the family calendar. Here’s my schedule:

Monday – Thursday

630 – Wake Up/Meditation
700-730ish – Yoga  – often pause in the middle to get breakfast for 4yo.
730-800-Breakfast, Coffee, Kids to school etc.
830-330 – Work
330-530 – Family Time
600-630ish – Dinner
630-700- Walk with Mike
700-730-Walk With Maggie
800-11:00 – School
11:00- Sleep

Friday-Sunday

630 – Wake Up/Meditation
700-730ish – Yoga  – often pause in the middle to get breakfast for 4yo.
730-800-Breakfast, Coffee, read news
800-1200- Homework & Writing
100-800- Family Time (this often includes grocery shopping, cleaning the house, etc)
900-1100-This is when I might watch TV

Do I adhere to this exact schedule every day? No. I can’t. I have to go to the office once or twice per week, and travel occasionally. I often multitask. For example, I take the kids to the beach almost every day in the summer, and while they play I study.

Learn to love the word NO. No is your best friend. Do I want to be on the board of directors at our local library? Yes. Can I do it? NO. Can I be on the PTO? I’d love to but, NO. Do I feel a little guilty saying no all the time? Yes. What do I do to get over the guilt? Small things that don’t take any time – when I’m able I donate to local charities, schools, events. I have no time to attend meetings, but I do have time to fire off an email here and there. Mostly though, I am learning not to feel guilty.

Is this balanced? I don’t know.  Am I happy? Very. Am I stressed out? Not really. Will this work for you? I have no idea.

There you have it, a little peek at my underwear.

Via Telegraph.co.uk

If Mo Willems Wrote My CV

I’ve been reading this book at least once a week for about a decade.

If you have children, you know about the pigeon. He wants to drive the bus. He wants a puppy. He does not want to take a bath. I’ve read the books by Mo Willems to my children for so long I can recite them. I imagine if Willems wrote a book about my career it would go a little something like this:

My Mom Wants To Publish A Story

Hey! I’m Kid, Let’s listen to my mom talk about writing.
Oh, hello. Am I a writer? I am.
What does a writer do?
I spend a lot of time thinking about writing things.
Sometimes I write things.
I spend a lot of time fixing things I wrote.
Waiting for people to get back to you is a big part of it.
You want to know what I write?
I write about writing.
I write about eating and cooking and reading and knitting.
Have I written non-fiction books about celebrities? I have.
Do I write children’s books? I do.
Am I working on a series of horror stories? I am.
What about grants and scientific papers, do I write those? Yes.
Will I write something for five dollars?
ARGGHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOO!
I should be writing right now.
What’s that you say? Anthology submissions are open?
Hmmmmmm…..

 

 

This Is Not A Lifestyle Blog.

A tiny hand making tiny cupcakes, probably the most you’ll see of my kids on this blog.

I’ve been thinking about how to focus this blog, find a niche. Then, the other day, I was on Twitter and I noticed the description I’d given of myself: Mom, Wife, Writer, Knitter, Cooker, Reader, Eater. Hmm, it seems my problem may be solved. I don’t want to use this space to talk about my kids (much) because I’m very protective of their privacy. My husband has expressed numerous times he doesn’t want to come up in my writing. That leaves: Writing, Knitting, Cooking, Reading and Eating. I can write about those things!

Immediately after I decided this would be my focus, I thought, “Oh crap. Does that mean I’m writing a lifestyle blog?” I don’t know, you tell me, does it? I’m not trying to be Martha Stewart. I can’t really give advice to anyone. Does anyone want to read about my take on any of these things? Do I care? Nah.

So, look forward to: A total re-design of this blog. A total re-design of my other website (katekastelein.com) My reviews of books, discussion of the writing life, knitting and food talk! I may from time to time post my grad school annotations of books I’m reading. It is my hope to bring a little light into the world and perhaps inspire others to enjoy some books or food or yarn.

Three cheers for finding a focus! It only took me 8 years!

The Weight

Except for the jaunty mustache, this is an excellent portrayal of me. I found it on Creative Commons via Leevclarke

I should be preparing for my 2nd MFA residency right now. You might envision me poring over books, furiously typing away on my computer, and you’d be correct. Those are things I need to do. But I am a 39-year-old married mother of 2 that is preparing for 10 days of no at home time except for sleeping. So for me, preparing means: making sure laundry is done, planning for meals and shopping for them, making sure family calendar is up to date and transportation to and from violin and dance and school is arranged for, clean the cat box. I realize typing this you probably think my husband is a jerk who doesn’t help me out. This is not true. He would do these things. But I do it instead. Because I am their mother. Because of the weight.

You see, no matter how many fun, pinteresty memes you see that tell you to follow your dreams! Go for the gold! Do it now or you never will! Those don’t apply to middle-aged mothers who spend tens of thousands of dollars and 30 hours a week on a Master’s degree. Especially an art degree. Not to mention the twice yearly residencies. I am stealing from my children. I am stealing money that could be saved for their college accounts. I am stealing time that their mother should be spending with them.  And no matter what thing it is you want to do for yourself, if you have children, our society will tell you – no. You are not supposed to do that anymore. You are not you. You are a mother. Your life is not about you.

I spent 8 years as a full-time stay at home mother. Then two more as a stay-at-home mother/student. Now I am a working mother and student. Don’t get me wrong, I got shit for being a stay at home mother. ‘Must be nice to not have to work.’ ‘I don’t understand what you do all day.’ ‘Hey, why don’t you watch my kids too?’ .  I know first hand, that no matter what choices you make as a mom, someone is going to give you hell for it.  But even with this knowledge, I feel the weight.

Last residency, my daughter cried when I left one morning, about half way through. She’s 10. She’s not a baby. I’m not even a full-time resident. I’m commuting. This time, my son has already requested I sleep in his room when I get home.  I love these babies of mine, and have obviously raised clingy little beasts.

Why am I doing it? Because I have always wanted to. Because it’s the thing  I will regret not doing.

Why didn’t I do it when I was younger, before I had kids? Because it wasn’t time. Because I had to veer far off the path over and over, so I could get pushed back on, before I finally said, “Yes. It’s true. This is the thing. The thing I’m supposed to do.”

Why am I writing a depressing post about it? Because, I try very hard to keep a good front all the time. Because I need to sort it out and let people know, especially mothers, that if you choose a path that doesn’t put your kids first, even if you put them first in all other aspects of your life, you will feel that weight. But instead of letting it push me down, I will carry it. It will make me stronger.

I Will Achieve Some of My Goals!

Still nearly my constant view.

Remember when I turned 30 and freaked out and started a blog, the  30 list? No? Well read that link, it’s all explained there. When I look at the list, I cringe. It was a terrible list. However, it started a new tradition and every year I make a new list of goals, although now I call it my Unreasonable Goals. At first I tried to match the number of goals to my age, then I got lazy and kept it to 30. Now I am nearly 39. It’s time to freak out. I mean, freak out more than I’m normally freaking out. I’m jacking the list back up to 39. Will I achieve all my goals? Probably not. Looking back over the years, I think at my best I run at about 50% achievement. That’s awesome. I’ll take it. My new motto: I will achieve some of the goals!

Looking back, many of my goals stay the same from year to year: Read X amount of books, Knit X things. Many times goals rolled over from year to year.  One first year a goal was, “Take one class at UMA”. I didn’t that year. I didn’t the year after that. Or the next. Finally, in 2014 I bit the bullet and re-nrolled at USM. Last year I not only finished college but applied for and now am enrolled in grad school. I wanted to have my MFA by the time I hit 40, but I’m OK with 41. Things I did that were not on my list? Have another child. Move. Both amazing things.

This year the list has a lot of writing goals, and a separate writing spreadsheet (I was inspired by one of my professors, Theodora Goss, she has very ambitious writing goals and an equally ambitious spreadsheet). As usual I will post the list here, and hopefully it will automatically update when I update it. I will also do a little recap of 2016 goals in another post.

I’m also happy to report that my daughter is doing her own list this year! She is doing a spreadsheet with 11 goals. When I asked her if she wanted help figuring out how to add sums and percentages she said, “Uh, no. I learned how like last year.” Thank God. Now she can help me figure out the graphing part.

Anyhow, that’s where I’m at at the end of 2016. Looking at 2017 with a big list of things I want to do.

 

Fear of Falling

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’ve started an MFA program in creative writing, which has been my dream for about 10 years. I couldn’t believe I got in, and now I’m scared to death about what that means. I am occasionally gripped with the same kind of terror I experience at the top of a tall building. The view is beautiful and exciting, but it makes me feel shakey and pukey. Will I have the time to do it justice? Is it a bad idea for my family, with so much time dedicated to school over the next two years? The other students I’ve seen in the handbook are much more experienced than I am, or at least better at writing bios. I don’t know if I can do this, but I have to. For one, I just took out a loan so I can. For two, if I don’t , I’ll never know, and fear of not knowing is worse than the fear of doing.

Here is the Jessie Spano Caffeine Pill Freakout, which is basically how I feel all the time. (Not the drugs part obv)

 

 

Quality of Life

A few months ago I posted about some health issues that caused me to make a major shift in my diet. If you don’t feel like reading the post, the short version is, due to chronic digestive health issues I started an extremely limited diet. I basically was restricted to meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, yogurt I made myself, and a couple of hard cheeses. No grains at all. None. Don’t even ask , “could you eat?” the answer is no. I stayed hardcore on this diet for 9 months. 9. I  lost 30 lbs. and I started to go slowly insane.

If you look up the diet I was on, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you will read over and over, “Demands extreme, fanatical adherence” . You make ALL food yourself, you do not eat out. You do not eat any – this includes condiments – packaged food.  Early on I joined a FB group for people on this diet. It was supposed to be a place to be supportive and share tips, foods etc.  Occasionally people would share prepared foods that were ‘legal’ on the diet. I took the time to e-mail Raye’s of Maine Mustard to see if their yellow mustard was compliant. That simply means contains no additives other than what’s on the label etc etc. They very nicely emailed me back and assured me that their foods contain only what is on the label and only pure spices, which have no additives. I shared this with the group and was immediately shot down because 1. The company didn’t supply the answer to me through the mail on their letterhead and 2. Because companies cannot be trusted to change their formula at anytime. I ended up leaving the group.

The level of attention I paid to my food, and then to any possible reactions my body might have from any food at anytime started to lead to what I think is an extremely disordered way of thinking. Was my headache from my toddler screaming in my ear or had I been contaminated by a rogue gluten molecule? I had to stock my pantry with foods I could eat that were pretty expensive and got snappish with my kids when they ate my snacks. I had to plan out every meal, and it was even worse when we wanted to go on any sort of outing. I started adding in illegals pretty early on, and by illegals I just mean foods that may not be OK, for example getting a 5 Guys burger on lettuce.

A culmination of events this past December put me in a deep funk, and I realized that even though this diet had helped me, it was in no way sustainable for me if I wanted to be a happy person. That’s the simplest way to put it. What happened was this, I started a new job, and was invited to a catered Christmas party. After agonizing for days about what to do, I simply said I couldn’t go. I work for a really great place and they would have been more than accommodating, but I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t send them an email of diet restrictions that was more strict than the one Gwenyth Paltrow is currently being ripped apart for adhering to. Already invites to go out to eat with friends or to their houses had dried up. I didn’t feel like inviting anyone over because it ended up with me making a million different versions of food, much of what I couldn’t eat. Every single phone call I had in relation to getting together with people included, “So, what can you eat?” and resulted in me bringing my own food. My daughter has a keen interest in cooking and baking, and I wasn’t able to try anything she cooked. My family wants to travel, and I couldn’t see myself taking my yogurt maker with me to California, or reading out a list of what I was allowed to eat and making a huge scene everywhere we went. I had enough, I couldn’t take it anymore and tossed the whole diet out the window.

Will I gain weight? Yup, already have. Will I end up with another Colitis flare up? Who knows. You know what else causes Colitis, besides the classic “no one has any idea”? Stress. And this diet was adding so much stress to my life, I think that it is definitely possible that the pros and cons were about 50/50. If I end up sacrificing my social life, quality time with my family, and travel, paired with an unholy obsession with food as well as analyzing every twinge, pang and sniffle, for healthier guts and prescription medication free life, is that an even trade? I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot. Right now, I’m eating what I want. Trying not to go too wild with pasta, and continuing to eat healthy amounts of yogurt and other foods that aid gut health. Will I end up back at the doctors? I don’t know. I might have anyway. Right now, I have decided that it’s a quality of life decision, and mine was suffering just as much with the diet as it was with the drugs.

I do not disparage anyone who undertakes this massive change of life for their health. Many people do it and find great success. They are stronger people than I, and I applaud them. But for me, right now, it’s just not in the cards.